[a]Kelly[/a] is the latest contender in reggae's nostalgic rediscovery of its old-skool '70s consciousness roots.
Best known for his upbeat Jamaican chart-topper ‘If Love So Nice’, which is inexplicably excluded from this debut UK album, [a]Kelly[/a] is the latest contender in reggae’s self-consciously nostalgic rediscovery of its old-skool ’70s consciousness roots.
He is often compared to [a]Sizzla[/a], although he lacks his fellow ghetto prophet’s rasping harshness and leans more towards mellifluous, poppy arrangements like the lilting bounce of ‘Last Days’ and the skittery, sweet-toothed skip of ‘My Heart’. Even so, millennial rasta sermonising is in plentiful supply, from the gravel-voiced gospel gravitas of ‘Purified’ to the biblical self-righteousness of ‘I’ll Never’. Essential message: Jah is a terrific bloke and nothing will tempt Junior away from glorifying his name. No way.
‘Rise’ may provide relief for anyone who thought old-skool reggae had been sacrificed to mechanical beats and slack-talking shock-jock MCs. On the other hand, the grinding predictability of [a]Kelly[/a]’s themes and vocabulary will not endear him to fans of this music as a progressive, evolving form. Because, aside from the unlikely harmonica-driven blues finale ‘Weep’, most of these 14 tracks sound like theme-park pastiches of some ‘classic’ golden age. If [a]Sizzla[/a] is the Paul Weller of reggae, say, then [a]Kelly[/a] may well be its Richard Ashcroft. An intriguing notion, but hardly an exciting one.